Littleton citizens receive a monthly newsletter from city staff, called the Littleton Report.
What the Littleton Report is not supposed to be is a way for private individuals or groups to publicize their message to the entire community at taxpayer expense. We have seen this standard of practice ignored in the past, and we have a very recent example of the rules not being followed.
In the August 2016 Littleton Report on page 2 there is an article entitled “Be Part of the First Littleton Leadership Academy!” If you didn’t know better you would think this is a City of Littleton-sponsored Academy But it is not!
You have to wonder who you need to know in order to get a city wide distribution of your private endeavor at tax payer’s expense. What we do know is that 99.99% of us could not get our message printed in the Littleton Report – and that’s how it should be!
The Charter requires the city council to approve an annual appropriation bill (our city’s budget) each year by Sept. 15. The City Manager can make some adjustments to the approved budget without consulting the council but there are other adjustments he cannot make without the consent of council. At the time the 2016 budget was approved by council Michael Penny and Debbie Brinkman had been meeting with the TrailMark HOA telling them a fire station was coming and the pair had been negotiating with Lockheed Martin to provide fire and emergency services to the aerospace company located outside the city limits. You have to wonder why both Penny and Brinkman, not once, brought up the funding of a new fire station during their extensive budget discussions prior to September 15th.
Early in December of 2015 several ordinances appeared on the council’s agenda for the funding of the new TrailMark Station 19. It became obvious just how much work had been done towards the building of Station 19. An agreement to provide fire and emergency services to Lockheed Martin had been negotiated and ready for approval, Golden Triangle Construction had responded to an RFP and staff was recommending that they be awarded the contract for the construction of Station 19, and several accounting maneuvers were presented for approval to loan money to accounts that were to be used to pay for the construction of Station 19 but did not have the funds to meet the construction costs.
At the December 1, 2015 council meeting Councilman Clark asked the Public Works Director, Mark Ralph, why he was spending any money on Station 19 prior to any council discussion or approval of a new fire station. Ralph said he was directed to proceed by the City Manager. We later learned that $85,000 was spent to get Station 19 off the ground – all before the council ever discussed the expenditure let alone whether or not they supported the additional fire station.
The Charter provides oversight of our budget to prevent this type of activity. Section 75 of our Charter states that the council, after a public hearing, may insert new items of expenditures. The addition of new budget expenditures is not within the city manager’s authority but yet he spent close to $85,000 without the full council’s knowledge or approval. It appears that Brinkman and Bruce Stahlman were the only two councilors aware of the city manager’s activities.
If the Charter had been followed Michael Penny would have first gone to the council to discuss whether or not the council wanted to enter into an agreement with Lockheed Martin and/or build a new fire station in TrailMark.
Every two years, after newly elected council members are seated, Littleton city council reviews and updates their legislative procedures. Robert’s Rules of Order forms the basis of their legislative procedures to ensure that the meeting runs fairly and orderly with decorum allowing all members the same rights and privileges as all others. The rules exist to ensure the public that business is transacted properly and appropriately.
At the 17 May 2016 council meeting Debbie Brinkman, once again, operated outside the council’s own legislative rules, which went unnoticed. Ms. Brinkman made a motion to postpone indefinitely the ordinance on lifting the ban on recreational marijuana. Her motion was made prior to the main motion ever being moved or seconded.
A motion to postpone should not be made until the main motion is made and seconded. How can a motion be postponed if it was never offered and seconded?
Council’s legislative rules, rules they voted to conduct business by, states:“Motion to Table Indefinitely. This motion postpones consideration of the main motion (emphasis added) in such a way that the issue being discussed may be taken up at an unspecified, later date when a majority of the members present vote to “call it from the table.” This motion is not debatable and requires a majority vote of the members present for passage.”
Council has an obligation to the public to conduct their business according to their own legislative procedures. The citizens have a right to expect that they will follow their own legislative procedures. Not doing so can lead to severe consequences if challenged in court. Council may be “right” in their decision but if they violate their process for decision-making it won’t matter how right they might be – their decision could be overturned for not following their own rules.
In approving The Grove building project, LIttleton Community Development Manager Jocelyn Mills wrote: “The subdivision exemption map for the subject property is in compliance with the provisions of Title 11.” That statement is absolutely false. Section 11-9-1 of the zoning code allows “the owner or purchaser of land, or agent thereof, to divide such land into not more than two (2) parcels, which meets the requirement of the zoning district classification.” In direct violation of the applicable zoning code, Mills approved the COMBINATION of parcels, not the DIVISION of parcels. That’s just wrong.